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Women shop at a jewellery store at Baghbanpura Bazar ahead of Eid Al Fitr in Lahore on May 21, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: After the Supreme Court’s May 18 order of opening businesses and shopping malls across the country, Pakistan is entering a blind alley with the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus touching 48,500.

So far, more than 1,000 deaths have been reported, and after the apex court’s directions people are caught in Eid shopping frenzy, which the authorities fear could further spread the virus resulting in more deaths.

Pakistan is celebrating Eid Al Fitr which is subject to moon-sighting, most likely on Monday, and markets and shopping malls are already overcrowded with people and families buying new clothes, shoes and jewellery.

Sindh is the most adversely affected province with more than 19,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus while Punjab comes second with 17,500 cases followed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) (6,900) and Balochistan (3,000).

Ease in lockdown doesn’t mean elimination of virus

Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid has warned people against rushing to crowded markets and shopping malls for Eid shopping. Ease in lockdown did not mean virus had gone, she said.

In a tweet Dr Yasmin Rashid warned “A relaxation in Lockdown by no means is an indication of Covid-19 having been eliminated. Be safe. Maintain social distancing when outdoors and do not forget to wash your hands frequently. Children and elderly should preferably stay home.”

Sindh warns serious repercussions of SC orders

Sindh government too has cautioned that the Supreme Court’s Monday orders might result in further spread of coronavirus cases. Education minister of Sindh and a senior member of the provincial cabinet Saeed Ghani expressed his concerns over the top court’s orders saying the country is now bracing for surge in coronavirus as lockdown is no more there.

The provincial government has directed the shopping malls and markets committee’s representatives to ensure standard operating procedures (SOPs) and disallow customers above-55 and below-12 inside the premises. However still there is a potential threat of surge in cases as SOPs violations are frequently reported across the province.

Friday, Eid prayers allowed

Sindh government has also allowed Friday as well as Eid prayers across the province but made it clear that it needed to be held in accordance with the guidelines issued by the federal government, stressing social distancing.

The other provinces have already relaxed restrictions over the combined prayers.

Earlier, the Sindh government had allowed 3-5 persons to offer Friday prayers. Saeed Ghani said the decision was being taken in line with the federal government’s policy.

Transporters resume intercity service in Punjab

Elsewhere in Punjab, transport services resumed after a two-month-long lockdown. The intercity transport service in the province is allowed by the Punjab government with SOPs and precautionary measures related to Covid-19 pandemic in place.

“The intercity transport in all cities of Punjab has now resumed its operation after we made a formal announcement in this regard. The passengers are rushing for their hometowns and we are providing them service at discounted fares,” All Pakistan Public Transport Owners Federation Chairman Asmatullah Niazi told media. He, however made it clear there would be no discount on the transport that will be running on Motorways.

The federal government has already allowed train service with effect from May 20 with all the SOPs being strictly followed.

Doctors dismayed by SC’s refusal to hear them

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has expressed serious concern over the Supreme Court’s decision in which it ordered the provincial governments to reopen all shopping malls without any hindrance and ensure strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“The PMA always respects the verdicts of our courts. But, as far as the coronavirus situation is concerned, the Supreme Court should have considered the opinion of the country’s doctors,” said a press statement issued by the association.

It warned that ending the lockdown would have horrifying consequences as it would lead to a significant increase in the burden of Covid-19 disease in the country.